Here we are once again, it’s lights out and away we go!!!
2019 has finally arrived, here I go through my thoughts of the season opener in Melbourne and see who won and lost.
Now I couldn’t start this without first mentioning the extremely sad loss F1 has had right before the season began, I am of course talking about losing the great, wonder, talented and well respected Charlie Whiting.
Charlie was to some people Mr. Formula One.
His knowledge and technical know how earned him the title of race director and was one of the few people liked and respected by all. We miss you Charlie and will be extremely hard to fill the void you have left behind.Embed from Getty Images
I will start off with a summary of the race.
The race was a mixed bag really. Some great moves some questionable. The low point in that race was undoubtedly the Ferrari team orders.
At half way in the season I’d understand however at the first race I can’t understand, to me it’s just not needed then.
The high point for me was seeing Bottas make a serious challenge to Hamilton with a bit of attitude as well, basically what we were missing from last year.
Starting from a lock out front row the champions started the season where they left off really by simply winning.
They had no faults in the pits and we finally saw a Valtteri Bottas that can take a fight to Lewis Hamilton. Bottas having a great start off the line, cutting any challenge off from Hamilton to win the race by over twenty seconds.
On the other side of the garage Hamilton’s car was found to be missing a huge “chunk” from his floor on the rear which may explain why he was struggling for pace.
Aside Hamilton’s struggle the team largely controlled the race from start to finish with Bottas topping it all off with achieving this season first fastest lap additional point for driver and team.
Mercedes leave Australia leading forty four points in constructors and their two drivers one and two in the drivers.
Ferrari. P4+P5Embed from Getty Images
Well what happened?
I think will be the question most Ferrari fans will be asking.
After a very promising testing programme setting fastest times and having little mechanical stoppages, Ferrari were not on par with Mercedes at all.
Nearly seven tenths off in qualifying probably isn’t what anyone expected from the Scuderia.
The race itself wasn’t much better I believe if team orders hadn’t been imposed Charles could’ve finished ahead of Sebastian.
I feel like he struggled with the car all weekend.
Charles doing well in turn one to avoid a potential touch with Vettel however to impose orders in the first race ruined it, topping off what was a dismal weekend for the red cars finishing fourth and fifth and near a minute behind.
It’s fair to say everyone is simply asking where has all that space gone? And if Mercedes were lying about theirs or have they simply improved?
Red Bull- P3+P11
Here we are, the surprise of the race I think.
With Red Bull now being powered by Honda, I had my doubts about their overall performance as although the Honda power unit has improved vastly since the woes at McLaren, I personally hadn’t seen a PU powerful enough to challenge the top teams.
I think Honda has improved everything but I didn’t expect them to score a podium this quick. I was more looking at 4th or 5th with a podium at a circuit more suited for the Red Bull in past like Hungary or Singapore.
However Max delivered a performance that will make Daniel question his move to Renault.
Storming to third over taking Vettel for the last podium spot from fourth on the grid but from there, chasing Lewis in the closing stages and putting pressure on the five time world champion was not only positive from Hondas perspective but also the team’s.
Sadly not everything went well for the team with Pierre Gaslys debut for the team not starting well, after failing to get out of Q1 due to traffic and a power loss issue that was saw him start from P17.
Gasly did well but ultimately having to accept P11 just outside the points, I have no doubt he will be far better next time out if Saturday goes well for him.
Overall their race had both highs and lows but with a podium in the bag this quick, we can only think how many more if not possibly a win will come their way.
Haas P6+ DNF
Haas had yet another Aussie weekend to forget with Roman Grosjean retiring yet again with a wheel loose after a pit stop.
Both cars however did not fall victim to this with Kevin Magnussen finishing sixth to put the team fourth overall with eight points far better than two DNFs like last year.
The Haas pair going unchanged from last year qualified well on Saturday in P6 and P7 respectively.
It showed a lot of promise however that pit stop for Grosjean, leaving him with three wheels on his wagon and Kevin only managing to gain one place, effectively due to his team mate retiring will leave the team feeling saddened that they let the same issue occur once more, ruining their opening race.
Renault P7 + DNFEmbed from Getty Images
So today was the day that Daniel was going to show us all what Renault really had to challenge the top three teams.
His race however wasn’t even seconds long before he lost his front wing. From there on, his race was done in my view.
He did remarkably to slow the car without clattering into someone else as we usually see in that kind of scenario but he did slow enough and no one got tagged but after changing his wing and kept going ,his car in the end was just too badly damaged to continue.
Nico Hulkenberg however done a great job.
Starting P11 to finish P7 is amazing with everything going around him at the start as he could’ve been taken out easily due to Daniel’s issue, but he drove a good race and stayed out of trouble to bring the team home some good valued points.
For me their performance wasn’t’ on par to be 4th best this season.
Qualifying will be tough for all midfield runners with all being so close but Renault should be challenging Haas every race and I just feel it’s only going to happen where Renault is better suited to that track more than the Haas.
Alfa Romeo P8 + P15Embed from Getty Images
So the team, staff, base and boss may be the same but Sauber-…I mean Alfa Romeo as they prefer to be called these days have an old friend back in the form of Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi.
Their first outing as Alfa proving to be promising with Kimi leading the team in getting four points for the team with a P8 finish.
Saturday for the team went about right in my opinion. With Kimi starting P9 and Antonio starting P14.
Both cars getting through to Q2, I wasn’t expecting Antonio to get further than that given the strength of the car and it being his first full season in F1.
That’s not to take away anything from his performance however I think he drove really well and has clearly learnt from his mistakes he made in China in 2017 and will only get better from here.
It was a shame to see him finish lower than he started but that’s F1 but am really hopefully Bahrain will be better for him.
Kimi had a great run showing what the car can do if pushed but if Grosjean had not retired, I don’t think he would have gotten P8 which is still a good result.
Going from what Charles achieved last year, I think they’re about the same in terms of performance and will see better with that Ferrari Power Unit in places like Russia and Bahrain.
Racing Point P9 + P13
Well I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I didn’t expect Lance Stroll to out race Sergio Perez! Fantastic drive for his new team.
I was disappointed with the team’s overall performance however as I was hoping they would be both in the top ten if not close to it.
Secondly hold a top ten position in the race as I’m sure we’re all use to seeing.
Lance as I said surprised me beating his far more experienced team mate and scoring two points as well is very well deserved in what will be the team’s first full season in F1.
Sergio on the other hand had a dismal race starting in the top ten only to drop down out the points and finished P13 (lucky number).
I hope his race next time out will reflect his and the car’s potential as if not, it will be hard to question a possible return for Esteban Ocon.
Toro Rosso P10 + P14Embed from Getty Images
So the Torpedo has returned! And with that scoring points for the team as well!
Yes Dani Kvyat is back in F1 and making his debut is his team mate, Alexander Albon.
With Toro Rosso now happy and familiar with one of its drivers and of course the Honda partnership now in it’s second season, the weekend was a struggle for one of it’s drivers.
Alex was pushing the car not only getting used to the car but also the circuit. As a result he spun the car and took some minor nose damage in FP1.
Saturday for the team looked bleak. Daniil just making through to Q2 to only be the slowest car and starting P15. Alex failed better but no by much starting P13.
However if anything it showed how out of position Dani was as he managed to claw a point for the team finishing a respective P10, with Alex sadly falling behind coming P14.
McLaren DNF + P12Embed from Getty Images
What could have been.
That is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of McLaren’s weekend.
Lando Norris putting in a fantastic performance on Saturday coupled with Carlos Sainz’s bad luck with traffic. Consequently putting both cars in different parts of the grid.
Norris who started P8 made great not to tangle with anyone into turn one which is easy to do, especially midpack. He did however not fare well in the race, falling back out the points to finish P12 due to a brilliantly defensive driver from Giovinazzi during the pit window.
Carlos had a rather unlucky Saturday with traffic ruining his lap and starting P18.
The race didn’t go much better. He started well like Lando however not even halfway into the race his engine gave up the ghost and caught fire leaving him by the side of the road thinking what could have been.
Whilst this weekend wasn’t what McLaren wanted it did show promise.
They can qualify in the top ten easier. They can hold their own in the midfield.
With Lando and Carlos driving it wont be long before they have points on the board.
Williams P16+ P17Embed from Getty Images
Where do I begin with Williams?
The weekend has just been terrible for the team, at least second off the next car and both drivers struggling to get anything out of it and they’re dead last. Much of the same as last season sadly.
I was really hoping we’d all see some sort of improvement in the team and car this year but all that appears to have changed is the paint and drivers.
Speaking of the drivers, Robert Kubica is finally back in a Formula One car!
Remarkable comeback after his horrible 2011 accident in rallying in which he broke every single bone on his right hand side, and almost losing his right hand.
However his Saturday and Sunday weren’t as good as we all hoped as he started P20 after suffering a puncture and would have finished there too had there not been three non finishers because due to that, he finished P17 and last of the runners at the flag.
George Russell made his F1 debut at the back of the grid as well starting P19 and finishing P16.
His race and qualifying was much the same as Robert’s aside a puncture. He however was upbeat and clearly wasn’t expecting much in the way of performance saying: “I’m just gonna go out there and have fun.”
Personally the right attitude to have when in that kind of position.
So there you have it. The first race done and winter hibernation definitely over.
As the noise, circus and amazing engineering is back. Racing is back. exciting Sundays are back.
In essence, Formula One is back, and aren’t we all internally grateful for it all.
Join us here for another race review for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
For Charlie Whiting, thank you for everything as Formula One won’t be the same without you.